Take the Money & Run . . . for Office

5083850951_0ef05790ac_mBy Francisco Gonzalez
JMI Development Director

Enough is enough. I am tired of politicians giving well-crafted speeches that proclaim that they believe in limited government and the free market and then go and rob us in the middle of the night. Thanks to the Florida Divison of Elections website, when we wake from our somberly sleep, we can learn what they did with our money all at the click of a button.

Currently, Florida law allows for some public financing of political campaigns. When major candidates for Governor or a cabinet position agree not to raise and spend money beyond certain limits, they qualify for taxpayer money – a match of up to $250 per donor. And if their opponent spends more than the limit, they get the overage as well, dollar for dollar.

The problem with this is that taxpayers are being forced to subsidize campaigns of candidates they may or may not like. Hey, if I like a candidate, there are times I might contribute to them. But even if I like a candidate, I might not be able to afford it – especially in this economy.

Thankfully, neither of our two current candidates for Governor, Rick Scott or Alex Sink, have taken a dime from the public trust. However, Bill McCollum tapped taxpayers for more than $1.8 million during the Republican primary. Had it not been for a lawsuit by Rick Scott (who spent well above the overage limit with his own money), McCollum would have received millions more on the taxpayer dime. The court suspended the overage provision.

Both candidates for Chief Financial Officer (yes, that’s the position that is supposed to be the caretaker of taxpayer revenue) have taken public financing. Republican Jeff Atwater has taken the most – a whopping $649,500, while Democrat Loranne Ausley has taken $386,886.

The three Republicans and two Democrats that ran for Attorney General have taken a combined $1.95 million. The largest offender, at $538,660, has been Democrat nominee Dan Gelber. Runner-up was his primary opponent Dave Aronberg at $426,974. Meanwhile, Republican nominee Pam Bondi has taken over $340,728 of the publics money, while her primary opponents Holly Benson and Jeff Kottkamp cashed in at $328,172 and $322,495, respectively (or not respectfully you might say).

The Commissioner of Agriculture candidates have also pillaged the land with Democrat nominee Scott Maddox taking $196,262 of taxpayer money. But Republican nominee Adam Putnam was not going to be outdone – he has taken over $317,813 of taxpayer funds to finance his campaign. As a Congressman, he also voted for the bailouts, so there’s no surprise as to what he’s willing to do with public money.

In sum, more than $5.5 million taxpayer dollars have been doled out to the candidates running for the top political offices in the Sunshine State (with the exception of gubernatorial candidates Rick Scott and Alex Sink). And the election isn’t even here yet. Millions more are likely on the way into campaign coffers. Some of these candidates, particularly the Republicans, often tell us they believe in a limited government and the power of the free market. Well, perhaps financing their personal campaigns is just an exception. Perhaps it is just a rare case where they need to abandon the free market to save the free market. Wait, I think I’ve heard this one before…

Thanks to the Republican-led Florida Legislature, taxpayers will have a choice on whether this bad behavior by the ruling class continues. Amendment 1 on the Florida ballot will ask voters if they would like to repeal the public financing amendment that has been in Florida’s Constitution since 1998. The James Madison Institute recommends in favor of Amendment 1 to repeal public financing of campaigns. And I recommend that at last some of these political candidates practice what they preach.

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Tom Tillison

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